It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Jack London. I thought I was about due. A character called The Malamute Kid is in both of the stories I read – the stories seem to be complementary of each other. Known sometimes as simply “The Kid”, he seems a little different from some of London’s other heroes. While he can be rugged and a loner at times, he isn’t always that way. He has to deal with “The White Silence” in the story of the same name. He is travelling with a married couple when tragedy strikes. I don’t think that I’m revealing too much in saying this as the Yukon is a common foe in London’s stories. The Kid makes the tough choices as how to best proceed considering the circumstances. The description of the White Silence is vintage London:
All movement ceases, the sky clears, the heavens are as brass; the slightest whisper seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice. Sole speck of life journeying across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realizes that his is a maggot’s life, nothing more. Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterances. And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him, – the hope of the Resurrection and the Life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence, – it is then, if ever, man walks alone with God.
London takes a break from the theme of loneliness in nature when The Kid mixes up his favorite brew in a cabin of friends in “To The Man on Trail”. The cabin is warmer and safer. Relaxing can occur. The ruggedness doesn’t go away, it just takes a rest. The Yukon isn’t far away, though – just on the other side of the door – and still in the slightly inebriated minds of the men inside as they drink to those outside:
A health to the man on trail this night; may his grub hold out; may his dogs keep their legs; may his matches never miss fire.
Visitors from the outside show up and some tough choices have to be made again. As the reader might expect, The Kid is up to the task.